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Accessory Dwelling Units Answer Part of Anchorage’s Housing Problem

By: Nikki Giordano, CEO of Anchorage Home Builders Association

Homeownership is the American Dream. Unfortunately, for too many Alaskans owning a home is beyond their reach. Low availability and record-high housing costs are putting a strain on people’s budgets. Affordable housing benefits everyone. In Anchorage, that means expanding the market in a variety of ways.

Anchorage is facing several building challenges including the cost and availability of construction materials, lack of usable land, and policies in place that hamper development. These challenges provide opportunities. Anchorage’s land-use policies currently favor single-house lots. While desirable for many, single-family homes are the most expensive form of housing. Alaskans need alternatives.

Accessory dwelling units are part of the complex answer to Anchorage’s housing problem. An ADU is a housing unit that’s built on the same property as another home. For example, a cabin or above-garage apartment. ADUs serve many important purposes. They often house aging relatives, young families, generate rental income and increase property values.

ADUs provide an opportunity for builders and homeowners. They add housing to land that’s already developed. They provide additional room and potential income for families. The majority of Alaskans see the benefits. That’s why in 2018, the Anchorage Assembly revised Anchorage’s ADU ordinance. The revisions allow for ADU construction to account for 20% of annual residential building permits. However, that didn’t happen.

Since the revision, ADUs have only accounted for 7% of residential permits. Homeowners and builders report the most common barriers are zoning limitations, permitting costs and the property review process. That’s why in early 2022, the Anchorage Assembly once again adopted revisions to the ADU code. These changes include: allowing ADUs on any lot with a dwelling; allowing ADUs in all residential and commercial zones; capping ADU size at 1,200 square feet; height is limited to 25 feet, except if it's over the garage then it can be 30 feet; require the planning department to track ADU production; retain existing special setbacks for R1/R1a; and change the effective date to February 2023 so that there is time to add some of the old restrictions into Girdwood’s chapter of the zoning code. Assembly members also voted to remove parking mandates which will help remove some of the barriers to ADUs.

The Anchorage Home Builders Association believes in building a thriving community for Alaskans. Working together, Anchorage’s leaders, the building industry and community members can create more homes.


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